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Education & Community Development

#MyPeaceJamStory by Sveri Stromsta May

1st August 2016

Sveri Stromsta May- Peacejam Advisor for Loy Norrix High School/Kalamazoo Michigan

    Peacejam has been apart of my life for the last 13 years and 2 years before that as the Fetzer Institute and the Kellogg Foundation were getting ready to launch and finance the Great Lakes Peacejam.  From that initial interaction with someone from the Kellogg Foundation my life has taken a great leap and has been great for my soul and my Peacejammers from 2003 forward.  I have taken Loy Norrix Peacejammers to the International Peacejams in Denver in 2006 and in LA in 2008.  I have taken Peacejammers to Indianapolis and to the World Summit in Chicago. Our Peacejam usually does about 35 community projects each year and love to make a difference in our school, community, state, nation, worldwide and have this influence make an impact and a difference in all of our lives. You can’t do one without it impacting yourself at the same time.
 We love when Kalamazoo hosts a Great Lakes Peacejam in Kalamazoo as we did this year with Jody Williams being our Peace Laureate . I have taken Peacejammers to work in Piura, Peru twice (2013, and 2014) and now to South Africa ( 2016).
 norrix group
    To have the dream of taking our Peacejammers to Cape Town to interact and began to know Peacejammers there and watching it happen was a Peacejam Advisors dream come true. Talking to Jim Stallings last summer when I was in Denver visiting my daughter and knowing that Earl Mentor was the contact/Peacejam advisor was the true beginning.  When emailing Earl and receiving emails back about our two groups connecting was like a fire bolt beginning to materialize.
     When our two Peacejam groups met together to begin our intercultural exchange we sang “Singing in the Rain” of course.  We did many group interactions, played games, cleaned the beach at Oceanview, cleaned the city streets of Oceanview, had a community gathering for over 100 township kids and finished with more Peacejammers from Masiapulalele singing and snaking around the room to “Lean on Me”.
combined group
     We wore matching t-shirts and were as connected as Peacejammers are when they share the common goal of coming together to making our world a better, safer and more peaceful world.
     We also worked with preschoolers in two spots in the township of Red Hill- Red Hill and at Children of Hope.  We sang, played games, helped the teachers, brought teaching materials and mostly lots of love,open arms, caring and smiles.
     We went to many museums,childhood homes and places that dealt with the apartheid and even had a dinner/question and answer with Lionel Davis a prisoner at Robben Island when Nelson Mandela was there.
    We went to a church service at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town with Archbishop Desmond Tutu doing the service.  We had a chance to chat with him and get our picture taken with him at his request.
sveri tutu
Senior Ella Cavey/3 year Peacejammer
   “This whole experience during our visit in South Africa was totally awesome, but what impacted me the most was making connections and relationships with the Peacejammers all the way across the world.  Seeing how they live and making connections with them is truly a life changing experience that I will remember and value throughout my life.  I hope to stay concocted with them and either come back or to have them come to us.  This trip made me realize that even through we are across the world and live very different lives and have very different cultures we are all here and come together with the same purpose, to make the world a better place.  I am so thankful and grateful to be in Peacejam so I can have opportunities like this”.
Sophomore- Ella Klute/1st year Peacejammer
     “Going to the preschools and helping out was really cool.  I will remember that experience and the kids smiling facts when we came back for a surprise visit.  All the service work we did also make me realize how much help South Africa needs”
Will be a freshman at Michigan State/Jonathan Lo/4 year Peacejammer
    “Meeting the Oceanview Peacejammers was the most memorable part of this trip”.
Sophomore- Mia May/1st year Peacejammer
    ” I really enjoyed helping out at the preschools.  I wish we could have done it all week, not that I didn’t enjoy being with the Peacejammers.  These kids were the happiest I’ve seen when we returned and you’d never expect to see joy come from someone that almost has nothing.  I’d like to help make their whole lives like that”.
Senior Maria Egloff/2nd year Peacejammer
    “This trip has really opened my eyes to the world around us and made real the struggles people face in South Africa and at home”
Senior Lauren Cole/2nd year Peacejammer
     “The cultural exchanges between Peacejams is something I’ll never forget.  It opened my eyes and showed me that there are young people all over the world that just want to make a positive impact on their community and the world”.
Earl Mentor- Peacejam Advisor/Cape Town, South Africa
    “Meeting the Loy Norrix group was an amazing experience.  I have learned to share my innermost feelings with a group I have come to trust”
     “What a powerful program with the Loy Norrix High School Peacejam was had.  We wish we can look at sustainable “collaborative” projects in the future”.
      “Thank you LNHS for a life changing experience”
       “The two days with the Loy Norrix High School was the best days of my life.  I came to learn that we are all one ant the same- human being s with the same dreams and aspirations in life”
       “Our wish is to travel overseas and experience Michigan one day”.
       “The beach cleanup was an opportunity to learn more from your partner.  I have learned so much from my friend overseas”
     We of course invited Earl and his Peacejammers to come to Kalamazoo and let us share the incredible hospitality that was shown to us back to them.  Within the opening – Singing in the Rain the warmth between the Peacejammers began to occur and by some opening games the laughter, arms around each other had begin to occur.
      Peacejam certainly hired the best of the best in Earl Mentor.  He is Dawn, Ivan, Rudy, Jim, Kate and all the Peacejam central office all wrapped into one enthursisatic and energetic advisor.
       Meeting Livina in Oceanview and her husband in Cape Town was such a wonderful treat.  Without Livina’s help our Peacejammers wouldn’t have had the opportunity to listen to and know about Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
       Wearing matching shirts that had the icon for Oceanview and our Loy Norrix Peacejam on it made all of us blend from the very beginning.  With tears and hugs after our last cultural interaction and singing of “Lean on me” made leaving new Peacejam friends a lasting memory and one that will never, ever be forgotten.
       I miss Earl so much already.  The blending of our two group of Peacejammers was truly a dream come true.
        I didn’t know lifelong friends could be made in just two days, but then Earl and I “knew” each other through the gift of Peacejam and the internet long before we met at his community center in Oceanview.


  • Dawn Engle
    Posted at 8:49 am August 7, 2016
    Dawn Engle
    Reply Author

    What a terrific story!

    • Kate
      Posted at 12:41 pm August 28, 2016
      Reply Author

      Wow Sveri this is just amazing – what a great experience for both your students and the PeaceJammers in South Africa!